You did everything right. You reached out to webmasters, wrote an excellent blog post, and got a do-follow backlink to your website included with that blog post, everything is as it should be. Just one little problem: your shiny new backlink isn't showing up on any analytics console. What now?
Frustrating as this problem may be, backlinks not showing up is not an uncommon issue in the SEO world. Thanks to that, the causes of this problem are well-understood, as are the potential solutions.
If you're having trouble having your new backlinks show up on your Google Search Console or on platforms like Ahrefs and SEMrush, this blog post will walk you through why that happens, how you can fix it, and what you can do to prevent that problem in the future. Let's start with the "why".
Why? Common Reasons for Backlinks Not Showing Up
The internet may seem like magic from the outside, but in the back end, it has to follow a series of written and unwritten rules. These exist both for practical reasons and due to technical limitations, and these rules are often the root cause behind backlinks not appearing on a given analytics.
Understanding why this happens can help you avoid the problem in the future. And it can help you pinpoint whether a missing link is actually affecting your rankings. After all, just because SEMrush isn't registering a link, that doesn't mean Google is ignoring it.
Reason #1 - The link is too new
This is a matter of technical limitations. The internet is a big place, too big for even Google to read the whole thing every day. As a result, it may take days, weeks, or even months for Google's bots to notice a new link and add it to their index.
How long it'll take for Google to index a page varies a lot. As a result, there isn't a solid rule for how new is "too new". But as a general rule, the more obscure a website is, the longer it will take to be indexed.
If you want a rule of thumb, I'd say 8 weeks is about how much you should wait before wondering if something is wrong with the link. If indexing is taking longer than that, you may need to take action.
Reason #2 - There is a problem with the tool
Webmaster and analytics tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz are all wonderful and useful. But they don't have a perfect 1:1 map of the web. As a result, it's not uncommon to find that a link appears in one of these tools but not in another. This is a particularly common issue for small and newly-launched websites.
Before assuming that Google isn't seeing one of your backlinks, cross reference with other tools first. And of course, check the backlinks section of your Google Search Console. It may be the case that Google saw the link, but the specific tool you used missed it.
As long as Google knows about your link, it doesn't matter if any third-party tools are aware of it or not. Google is what counts.
Reason #3 - The website is blocking indexation
Webmasters can control which sections of their website they want search engines to index. Needless to say, backlinks published on pages that are marked as no-index are 100% useless as far as SEO goes. We'll cover how you can figure out if a page is blocked from indexation later in the guide.
Reason #4 - The site has terrible on-site SEO
"On-site SEO" refers to all the best practices and methods that make it easier for a search engine to find and crawl a website. It includes things like having an optimized site map, making sure the site is mobile-friendly, having a robots.txt file, keeping load speeds low, etc.
Bad on-site SEO will not only hurt a site's SERP rankings, but it may also make it harder or impossible for search engines to crawl different sections of the website.
Reason #5 - You tripped a duplicate content restriction
One of Google's rules for their index is that they do not want two copies of the exact same content in their search results. Thanks to that, if the content associated with your link has been copied and pasted elsewhere, Google will typically pick one of the versions — usually the oldest version — and treat that as canon, while devaluing or ignoring the others.
This is one of the main reasons why you shouldn't copy other people's content. If someone else stole your content, there are actions you can take, but being copied doesn't typically hurt your SEO.
Reason #6 - Your link was marked as spam
Google's algorithms are designed to identify and filter out spammy or low-quality links automatically. While "bad" links are just devalued in the algorithm, in extreme cases, these links may be ignored entirely. As a result, these links will not appear in the Google Search Console, even if they do sometimes appear in the dashboard of SEO analytics tools.
This does not mean that your site is being penalized. It just means that one specific link was ignored. This rule exists both to prevent webmasters from abusing spam to improve their SERP rankings and to prevent people from using negative SEO attacks to tank their competitor's rankings.
Reason #7 - The link is gone
Don't get so caught staring at SEO tools that you forget to check the actual source of the link. Many websites have a habit of deleting old guest posts or removing links from old content. If it's been 2-3 months and your link still hasn't appeared, it might have been removed before Google had a chance to index the page.
Fixing the Issue: Strategies to Retrieve Missing Backlinks
If you've tried different SEO tools and the Google Search Console and your link can't be found anywhere, there are a few methods you can try to fix the issue.
However, many of these solutions will require cooperation from the webmaster of the site that is hosting your link. Which may or may not be a big obstacle depending on your situation. If you can get the help of the webmaster, keep on reading. If you can't, you can skip to solution #4 and keep reading from there.
1 - Use the Google Search Console
One way to encourage Google to inspect and index a specific page is to use Google's URL Inspection. This tool, available in the Google Search Console, allows you to submit a specific URL from your website for indexing. It also provides insights into how Google indexes and understands your web pages, including any indexing issues, crawling errors, or structured data markup errors.
This is a tool for webmasters. So, you can't submit a link to a site you don't own for inspection. But if you have the cooperation of the owner of the site, this is a good way to get your links noticed by the search engine.
2 - Update and Submit the Sitemap
Sitemaps are public documents that search engines use to understand the structure of different websites. If your link was published on a site with decent on-site SEO, then the sitemap was probably updated automatically to include the section of the site that houses your guest post — or whatever content has the link.
That said, if the site is archaic, or just poorly optimized, your guest post may not be in the sitemap. Luckily, you typically don't need to be the owner of a website to check a sitemap. You can follow along this guide to see if your guest post has been included in the website's sitemap, and if it hasn't, ask the webmaster to update that sitemap.
Once it is updated, the webmaster can further speed things along by submitting an updated version of the sitemap to Google using the Search Console.
3 - Edit the Robots.txt File
While the sitemap gives search engines an overview of the entire site, the Robots.txt file tells the bots where they can go and what they can do. This is key for privacy reasons, as it allows webmasters to tell the Google bots which pages they don't want to be included in search engines, and it can even be used to keep entire websites out of Google entirely.
That said, this can also be used to keep Google from crawling and indexing certain sections of a website or pages that meet certain criteria. Luckily, the robots.txt file is public, and it is often easy to find. All you need to do is go to a site's homepage, then click on the navbar, and then add "/robots.txt" to the end of the URL.
For example, you can find Google's version of the file at https://www.google.com/robots.txt.
If your content was published in a section of the website that is marked with a disallow tag on the robots.txt file, it will not be indexed. The solution then is to either ask for the file to be edited, or ask for your link to be moved to another section of the website.
4 - Build Tier 2 Links
Tier 2 link building is the practice of building links pages that have links back to your website. Say for example that you published a guest post (GP#1) months ago, and search engines are just taking their sweet time indexing that link. You can help speed things along by writing a new guest post (GP#2), and including both a link to GP#1 and a link to your website in GP#2.
Following links is one of the ways search engines map the web, so building tier 2 links on pages with high visibility is a good way to help search engines notice your missing backlink. Improving indexation is one of the main reasons why we started using a Tier 2 link building scheme as part of our Monthly Mix package.
5 - Share the content online
You can help search engines index a link by sharing it on social media and popular forums. Places like Reddit, Twitter, and Quora all get indexed by Google. And as mentioned, links are part of how the search engine crawls the web, so including links to the page that has your backlink is a good way to get it noticed by the search engine.
Doing this can be as simple as announcing on your official Twitter account that your website was featured in a guest post. Just don't resort to spamming the link on any of these platforms. That won't help.
6 - Ping search engines
You can inform search engines that a new page has been added to a website by pinging them directly. How exactly this works is a bit too technical, but it basically amounts to poking the bots and saying "Hey, there is something new here". There are plenty of free tools that will send out a ping for you, this one is a good example.
Pinging is a relic of the ancient days of the web, back when Google was a lot less sophisticated. These days, spam and bad actors have made pinging a lot less effective. That said, Google still does accept and consider pings, and doing it doesn't cause any harm. So, if your link is taking a while to index, pinging it once is not a bad idea.
Preventing Backlink Issues in the Future
Welcome to the end of the article! Hopefully, by now you'll have all you need to fix your issue with backlinks not showing up. Good luck with your problem, and please, try to be patient. Having a link you worked hard for be ignored by Google is always frustrating, but issues like this are seldom permanent. Follow the troubleshooting steps in this guide and your shiny new link will get the recognition it deserves sooner or later.
And if you're thinking to yourself "I never want to deal with something like this again", there are ways to lower your chances of encountering this problem again. Here are some best practices you should follow to make sure Google and other search engines will acknowledge your new links.
- Stick to white-hat link building. Spam, link insertions, and other black hat methods often result in your links being ignored.
- Veto your target websites carefully. Before you commit to trying to get a link from your website, check their recent guest posts to make sure they are being indexed. It's also a good idea to peek at the site's robots.txt file to look for red flags.
- Stick to authoritative websites. The higher a site's DA/DR is, the better your chances of having your link indexed quickly when working with that website. Check our backlink quality checklist if you want a more detailed breakdown of what metrics to consider.
- Use high-quality content. Google likes good content, so it is best to build your links using high-quality and niche-relevant content. Link insertions on low-quality guest posts that have nothing to do with your website have a much higher chance of being ignored.
- Aim for link diversity. It is generally best to get your links from different domains. If you build 10-20 links from the same website within a week, those may take longer to be indexed, and some may be ignored entirely.
You can also make some preventive measures part of your regular link building strategy. For example, make a habit of sharing your most valuable guest posts on social media as soon as they're published, and start adding at least one Tier 2 link to each of your guest posts. This lets you get ahead of the indexation problem, rather than waiting to react after you notice the problem.
Finally, you may want to build a blacklist of websites with known indexation issues. You can expand that list based on your own experience, and by chatting with other professionals in your niche to learn which websites gave them trouble.
We do that with Premium Guest Post service and our Monthly Mix Package. All the sites we work with have a good history of indexing new links quickly, and whenever a site starts giving us trouble with that, it gets struck from our lists. And clients who were affected by the indexation issue get their links replaced.